“Breadcrumbs” Galerie Nagel Draxler / Cologne

May 13, 2021

A “breadcrumb” or “breadcrumb trail” is secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s location in a website or Web application. The term comes from the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale in which the children drop breadcrumbs to form a trail back to their home. The intent of the exhibit is to embrace and showcase a diverse and eclectic group of early and recent adapters employing NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain to create and disseminate digital art via a gallery context and into the wider stream of commerce. The show will put to rest two demonstrably false assumptions widely held by today’s art industry: that this is a fad, and/or not art.

We are already in the midst of an NFTism hangover. One thing is certain though, this mode of dissemination of digital art isn’t going anywhere—not now, not any time soon if not forever. The backlash has been swift and shrill resulting from mass-media overload to concerns about environmental devastation wrought by excessive energy usage. Importantly, the industry is fast in the midst of improving power consumption. By the way, where was the outcry during the heyday of incessant art fair air travel, i.e. every year pre-pandemic since Art Cologne launched it all in 1967; and the destruction caused by single-use wooden shipping crates?

The art world isn’t keen on willfully adapting to change, especially when the upheaval entails a shift in the landscape of access and gatekeepers that control it. Rather than embrace an entirely new universe of collectors (the techies) and a passing of the baton to a generation of digital natives, many would still prefer to hang onto the status quo. But the ETH is in the ether, the genie is out of the bottle. There’s no reversing from where we are at present, and Breadcumbs is an effort for art to coexist in a bricks and mortar space as well as online in the form of NTFs.

Already there is a gallery in New York devoted exclusively to displaying this form of digital art and dedicated hardware is available to showcase these works. A significant portion of seemingly traditional art exhibited in galleries was born of digital means—from studies for paintings and sculptures, to pretty much every video and photographic work. Breadcrumbs will be indistinguishable from a non-NFT show inasmuch as there will be an installation-based framework upon which photos, computer printouts, paintings and objects will be presented, as well as a parallel life as Non-Fungible Tokens (details to follow). The artists range from the earliest pioneers in NFTs like R. Myers, Kevin Abosch and Anna Ridler to established gallery veterans like Darren Bader and Eva Beresin. Welcome to the new now.

– Kenny Schachter

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